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Nocturna league (episode.., p.8
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       Nocturna League (Episode 3: The Sunken Breath), p.8

           Kell Inkston
 
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  Chapter 7: A Considerable Escalation of the Progressing Conflict Takes Place, This Time from the Point of View of Someone Who May or May Not be Jobber Colette

  The dark, soul-eating coldness around the ship has only increased— and the Second Colette feels it all the more with her multitude of wounds. It’s a humorous stroke of luck, then, that she had saved The Captain’s Bandages from the Mist Gauntlet ordeal in her coat. As she cautiously makes her way behind the deck, she stumbles upon something alarming—The Captain’s clothes, dropped and abandoned, with a glint at one of the pockets. Unable to resist the concerning spectacle, she reaches down and inspects it before gasping in astonishment.

  Sure enough, here lies the legendary master key, silver and asking for ownership. Colette could simply bust into any room she pleases, complete access to all the Nocturna’s secrets; she’s not ready, though she thinks she is. Colette wraps her fingers around the key with great purpose, and decides precisely what she’ll do— but before she takes her leave, she spots a bit of bandage still on The Captain’s clothing. There’s some writing on it, but she can’t quite make it out. She holds it up to one of the deck lights after checking to make sure no one’s watching. Hastily inked in with a pen, are the words “A TRUE CAPTAIN NEVER APPEARS UNDRESSED.” Colette raises a brow, and looks over to the waves. The Captain’s hat is floating just on the edge of the deck light’s rays. She hesitates just briefly before taking up his jacket to warm herself, and turns to begin her plan.

  In a few more steps around the back of the deck, Colette finds the door to the lower decks and unlocks it.

  Before her is the majesty and mystery of the lower decks, its dreary lighting taking up only when she opens the door. The bulbs light in sequence, slowly unfolding the deep hall to display all its secrets, just waiting to be taken. Though the situation is dire, Colette is certain there must be some way to victory below; here of all places, there must be something she can use. If not, it will at least be a perfect hiding place. Colette steps in, closing the door behind her.

  The dreary sepia seems to shift about in the lower decks, as if the color itself is moving. She’s certain that whatever’s down here is definitely worth hiding. “Captain, you dog,” she says to herself, passing sets of doors that she cares not to count. She passes on another group of doors, but just as she does, a voice emerges.

  “Ahh, Colette, is that you?” A voice comes out, gravelly, refined, withheld.

  “C-Captain?!” Colette turns for the door, its port-hole misted.

  “Yes, it’s me— I do say, it appears as though I’ve locked myself into this horrid room. It only opens from the outside, you see, unless you have a key. Would you be so kind as to just turn that latch for me?”

  Colette raises a brow at the voice that sounds so much like The Captain’s; but something’s strange— the figure through the port hole looks… wrong, somehow- like the painting of an amateur. “I’m not sure,” She says.

  “Oh, but Colette, there’s simply no reason not to reach out and turn the knob! You’d be releasing your beloved, intelligent, witty Captain that’s actually a horrible monster that imprisons the innocent on a regular basis. Of course, I’d never do that to you, Colette. You’re my finest apprentice!”

  Colette turns away from the door. “Good night,” she says, sparing not another glance at the disturbingly “almost” figure in the porthole.

  “You’ll regret this, Colette. C-crack!” The mysterious entity cries, attempting to emulate the cracking of The Captain’s knuckles with its voice. Colette continues down the hall, seeing that all the doors are closed, save the one at the end of the hallway. This last door opens by itself. She pauses a moment, and then steps up to the open door to peer inside.

  “Hello there,” a voice says from below. This is not anywhere near The Captain’s voice; it is almost friendly.

  “Hi,” Colette says.

  “Who might you be?” The disarming, though full, voice enquires.

  “Who’s asking?”

  “A friend. Though I doubt you’d see me as such if you were to come in here.”

  Colette draws back. “Um. Okay.”

  “I’ve watched your exploits; you’re making quite a name for yourself.”

  “I thought you were asking who I was.”

  The voice squeals in otherworldly laughter. “Oh, my bad. I actually already knew who you were, I just felt like an introduction was the polite thing to do.”

  “Okay, then who am I?” Colette asks, wearily staring down into the blackness— she can just barely see something writhing down there… but she can’t quite comprehend it. As curious as she is, there’s such a massive foreboding to the idea alone of going in that room to turn on the lights, that she decides she really doesn’t want to know. For once, her curiosity is overcome by her sense of dread.

  “Colette Ketiere. The Captain’s apprentice.”

  She freezes. “But we’ve never met.”

  “Oh, no we haven’t. But I have been watching you. You’re a fantastic shot, you know.”

  “How were you watching me?” She tenses, and reflexively reaches for her gun, only to notice that it’s not there.

  The voice scoffs. “Well, I can see, eh— more like feel everything going on in the ship. So this is actually the first time I can see you with my eyes.”

  “Alright then,” Colette says, already quite tired with this profoundly-creepy character. “Who are you?”

  There’s a faint gurgling sound coming from the darkness. “Well, I’m glad you care! I’m Kotherrhre, the propulsion system!” Kotherrhre says with some form of glee, sounding more like roaring to Colette.

  “Wh-w… Okay. So you like, propel the ship?” A terrified Colette asks, now seriously considering going back to the surface and just going to find someone to wake up.

  “That’s right!”

  “How do you do that?”

  “With my limbs!”

  Colette stares on, trying her best to imagine what twisted abomination she’s talking to. “Great… Look, I’d love to talk bu-”

  “Oh, I know. You’re quite busy with the eldritch parasite and poor little Grancis, just doing her best.”

  Colette’s gaze widens. “You know about that?!”

  “I already told you I can feel everything going on in or around the ship; when The Captain charts a course, I feel where he’s going, when he turns to move the ship, I respond. It’s quite a fun job, though I’m technically a slave— could be worse I guess.”

  “A slave… It could be worse for you though?” She asks.

  It chuckles. “Oh, sweetie, from where I’m from, it can always be worse.”

  “I’m sure. Now maybe could you… I dunno, help me with this?”

  “Now that, I no can do, sweetums. I’ve been expressly ordered not to mettle in non-sailing, non-Captainly affairs. I can tell you right now though, The Captain is having a fantastic night in comparison to what you’re going through.”

  “Yeah? Where’s he?”

  “Underwater,” Kotherrhre says plainly.

  An eldritch chill runs down her spine. “But he’s alive?”

  “Oh, of course he’s alive! He’s The Captain!”

  “Well good,” Colette turns to leave, “Thanks for nothing, I guess.”

  “Ahh, come on! I’m helpful, really! Okay, ready? The parasite copies not only Grancis’ memories of you, but her subconscious expectations. That said, it’s a copy better than the real thing to your friend. Very few people can see through the guise, so you’ll need to persuade her some other way, perhaps.”

  Colette hums. “Yeah, okay, tha-”

  “And another thing: hide.”

  Colette squints. “What?”

  “Hide; your executioner’s coming!”

  Colette stumbles about as she peers across the hall to see the entry latch turning. “Hide where?!”

  “In here, with me!”

  “No way!”

  Kotherrhre gurgles pitifully. “O
h, well fine, in here then,” it says, opening a door labeled 'shipping records' to her side. Colette jumps in and it closes silently behind her just as Grancis opens the heavy latch and points her gun downward. Colette finds herself in a room of shelves, all stuffed with books. Getting to a hidden spot, she listens for movement. A moment passes that eases her into a sense of safety, and she takes up a book to inspect it.

  “Huh,” she mutters to herself as she reads the title, “Ledger? For what?” It’s marked by the year as well, using O.E.L. time. Colette opens the ledger to a random page and looks in. Within are names upon names that she doesn’t recognize. She closes the book and picks out one she recognizes, this year’s. Uncertain, she searches for her own name. Musingly, she flips through the thick book containing the A-C souls. She doesn’t find herself, but she does realize that the names are sorted by the last name. So she replaces the A-C volume for this year, and takes up the J-N volume. She flips through a bit more looking for her name, but is interrupted. She hears a sound in the hallway— the turning of a knob. Initially Colette smirks, realizing her hunter has not picked up the sound of her going into the ledger room; but if it’s the eldritch coming for her, it’d be sharper. Colette hears a scream: it’s Grancis.

  Colette bursts from the room and looks down the hall; Grancis was foolish enough to open that door for the 'Captain' on the other side. Paper-white hands pull a screaming Grancis in, all six of her shots doing nothing to whatever is taking her. Colette rushes forward.

  “FINALLY!” the voice, now quite less Captainly, and much more evil, exclaims in victory. “NOW, AFTER I’VE GROWN FULL ON YOUR BLOOD, I WILL GROW EVER FULLER AS I TAKE MY VENGEANCE ON THE CREW AND THAT ACCURSED CAPTAIN! I HAVE UNTIL HE FINDS ME, AND I WILL MAKE SURE THAT MY FEW MOMENTS WILL BE SPENT CHEWING, TEARING, AND FEASTING! I DON’T CARE WHAT HE’LL DO TO ME! NOW TELL ME, ARE YOU SCARED?” The voice’s owner screams on and on, enjoying every moment of control it has over Grancis, who’s screaming incomprehensibly. Colette gets to the side of the door, just out of their sight and thinks it over.

  She is wearing The Captain’s jacket… and she does have a fully bandaged hand. She takes a deep breath; it’s a huge stretch, but it’s all she’s got. She eases her bandaged hand past the edge of the door and takes a deep breath. “Well,” she coos in a Captainly tone.

  The owner of the voice, and the sounds of struggle instantly cease. Whatever it is, it gasps in blood-curdling terror. “I… H-hello, Captain!”

  “Did you really think I’d simply send someone down here for you to play with? Release her!”

  The unknown something growls. “Or what?!”

  “Or I’ll be very angry— do you remember what happened the… last time I was angry?” Colette says, pulling words out as she goes along.

  “… P-please? Can’t I just, I don’t know… take her arm? Humans don’t need both!”

  “No, you may not harm even a hair on Miss Vereyrty’s head.”

  The something sighs. “As you wish… Captain,” the beast mutters. Colette hears a shocked Grancis run out from the room and shut the door behind her, locking it back.

  Grancis takes a breath and looks over her savior. Her face of horror melts into one of confusion. “Co-wh… Hold it!” Grancis snaps up her gun and takes aim. Colette just crosses her arms. “Okay, eldritch! Now I have you!” Grancis exclaims.

  Colette shrugs. “Okay, Gran, shoot me.”

  “Huh?” The voice from behind the door mutters.
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